On behalf of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, I would like to share some important information with all of our members.  Please take a few moments to read the below information from University of Florida, Dr. Oscar Liburd and FBGA Director, Michael Hill compiled since Florida farms have seen signs of an Unidentified Borer on Blueberry Bushes.  At this time, no farm has been able to find or catch this insect, but please be on the lookout for any dead plants or holes and sawdust in the base of the plants.

From Dr. Oscar Liburd…

“Samples with injury on blueberry stems resembling girdling and some levels of tunneling were brought to the University of Florida Small Fruit and Vegetable IPM laboratory.  After inspecting the samples with a high powered microscope, we found insect frass inside the tunnels. No insects or larvae were recovered; preliminary conclusion indicate that a borer may be causing the injury on blueberry stems; however, further investigation with samples containing larvae is needed to confirm that it is indeed a borer causing the injury.”

From Michael Hill…

“I started seeing signs of this problem on our farm in Clermont about 3 weeks ago. I would say on our 33 acres I have found around 50 or so plants that are affected. I have seen another farm in the Central Florida area that has much more significant damage from this problem. I have heard that two other farms have this same issue in the Brooksville area, these are the only other farms where the problem was being sought after. I have identified the problem on Emerald, Flicker, Springhigh, Scintilla and Farthing. Have not seen any damage on Jewel.  I took a sample to Oscar Liburd last week and he believes it to be from some sort of borer. He said that he could not find any larvae or adults but he “believes” he may have found sign of feces in the tunnels. As you can see from the picture on the right it looks like bronzing or “flagging” on the cane that it is attacking.

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As you can see from the picture on the right, the top “tunnel” is an older wound, and the “tunnel” on the bottom seems to be more recent. On the more recent wound, it seems as there is a “flakey” sawdust biproduct of the tunneling which is why Oscar thinks that it may be caused by a borer. The older wound is trying to heal itself but the wound is girdling the cambium layer and killing the cane.

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3 year old Emerald​

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This is a 2.5 Year old Springhigh. On plants that are more monopodial, like springhigh it is girdling the main cane and killing the entire plant. It is difficult to see here, but the photo on the right, the entire plant is “bronzing” The photo on the left is of the base of the first plant on the right.​​

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Notice the “sawdust” below the tunnel

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​As I was about to send this presentation out, Ryan Atwood was able to find this borer in one of the tunnels on a farm in Central Florida. I still cannot be certain that this was the primary cause or a secondary pest moving in, but I would believe it to be the cause of the problem.​

The FBGA wanted to notify all of the growers of this problem and urge you all to scout your field for this pest/disease. We feel like we would like to ask IFAS to perform research on this issue and get to the bottom of this problem. It seems to be a severe issue that left untreated could devastate a field, and every farm that I have been to since seeing the issue on our farm has had the same symptoms. One farm I visited had 20% loss to the field. The FBGA would like to get feedback from you, the growers on this issue to see if it is a big enough problem statewide to perform research. Feel free to contact Michael Hill at Michael@southernhillfarms.com or via phone at 321-239-3137 if you have any questions or the FBGA office at 352-754-4145.

Dudley Calfee

President, Florida Blueberry Grower Association